LENNY WILLIAMS: Still In The Game (Music Access)

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Though he’s still most fondly remembered for his time with Tower Of Power, Little Rock’s Lenny Williams has had a long and distinguished solo career and though the late 70s/early 80s represent his Golden Age he’s continued to record quality soul albums. As if to re-iterate that point, the 67 year old’s new album is called ‘Still In The Game’ and the dozen songs show that he sure is. Though the album’s heavy on the ballads there are several excellent “up” moments that bring a vitality and variety to the set.

The album begins in down-tempo mood with a trio of ballads – the broody ‘Still’, the R&B flavoured slow burner, ‘This Is For The One That Got Away’ and the bluesy ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ (no… not a version of the H-D-H classic). Few artists would open a set with a trio like that but Lenny has the experience to get away with it. ‘Happy Man’ – with its Memphis style arrangement – picks the pace up a little. It has a confident swagger and recalls the best of the Hi and Malaco labels… Al Green meets Johnnie Taylor, if you would! ‘Stepping And Dancing’ is much more lightweight and you can see from the title at whom it’s aimed; cleverly, though, its levity offers a counterpoint to what went before. Two more ballads follow -‘Sunshine’ (more hints of Al Green) has a sweet production courtesy of Derek Allen while ‘In My Mind’ is a little more unrestrained. The groove-fuelled ‘Grown Man’ is a great 70’s throwback and a much better soul bet than the cloying smooth jazz ballad that follows – ‘On This Day’. The track is an unashamed pitch at the lucrative Wedding Song” market and even Kirk Whalum’s presence fails to rescue it from the quickands of sentiment. ‘Make Love’ is another slowie with a guitar intro that tries to do a ‘My Girl’. It’s followed by another great throwback ‘Good Girl’, then proceedings come to an end with the pacier ‘I’m sorry I Didn’t Know It Was Your Mama’. Like the aforementioned ‘Grown Man’, it’s lyrically clever … almost tongue-in-cheek and it ends the album on a high note.

‘Still In The Game’ is an excellent indie soul album. It offers a little something for everybody – soulful ballads, contemporary R&B, smooth jazz and lots of old school flavours… but what brings a unity to proceedings is Lenny’s flawless, soul delivery that shows there really is nothing likes experience.

(BB) 4/5